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Cacaxtla was the principal seat of the “Olmeca”, also known as the Olmeca Xicalanca. An archaeological study of the region confirmed that Cacaxtla was the most powerful capital in the Tlaxcalan region during the first half of the Texcalac cultural phase from A.D. 650-1100. At this same time Teotihuacán’s power had been eroded allowing small successor states like Cacaxtla to take over the trade route that linked the Basin of México to the Gulf Coast and to the Mayan realms of the Usumacinta Basin.
Cacaxtla covers about 180,000 square feet of which only Building B has been fully excavated. This residential area is made up of a labyrinth of rooms, patios, and passageways built around two main plazas oriented on a north-south axis. The architecture copied much of Teotihuacán’s talud-tablero style, together with a ground plan similar to Mayan palaces such as in Palenque. Frescoes are found throughout the palace site. The best preserved are found in the rooms adjoining the North Plaza, which is a six hundred square meter courtyard which was the focus of Cacaxtla’s ritual life. At first the Early Classic Mayan lords copied Teotihuacán’s architectural and artistic style as a means of showing a special relationship with Mesoamerica’s most powerful state. After Teotihuacán’s influence had eroded, the reverse occurred. The Cacaxtla paintings show that these Central Mexico warlords later on incorporated the Late Classic Maya style.